By any name, December parades a holiday treat

December 2-8, 2019

By Dwain Hebda

 

There is far more in common than differs in Little Rock’s and North Little Rock’s December parades. Both are seen as the starting gun to the holiday season, both feature multiple bands, floats and other marchers sure to delight any age and both throw candy, old-school style, as they go by. 

 

The primary thing that separates the two are their names – Little Rock calls its event a holiday parade, while Dogtown fiercely and proudly calls it a Christmas parade. 

 

“Because the North Little Rock Sertoma Club sponsors [the parade] and puts it on, it is the Christmas Parade and it will be the Christmas Parade,” said Sherry Bruno, longtime Sertoma member and chairman of the North Little Rock event.

 

Whatever you call it, the 2019 North Little Rock Sertoma Christmas Parade, slated for Dec. 1, is one of the most anticipated events on the city’s calendar. Bruno, who has been volunteering with the parade in various capacities since the late 1980s couldn’t pinpoint when the event began, which tells you something of its longevity. And annual participation shows there’s still a market for this kind of entertainment.

 

“We draw about 5,000 spectators,” she said. “It was four years ago I rode in the parade for the first time, because I was the president of the club that year. I was shocked when I saw how many people were out there.”

 

The North Little Rock event draws heavily, but not exclusively, from the community to fill the roughly 70 entries the parade averages in any given year. As Bruno notes, it’s hard to say precisely how many marchers will show up in any given year as the parade’s rules for participating are few and there is no entry fee for floats, bands or other groups.

 

“This is totally a community service by us, the Sertoma Club,” she said. “We let everyone in. You don’t have to pay a fee. We do have some rules and they’re pretty funny. The horses are always at the end, for instance.”

 

“We always start with the color guard from the school. Then we have the mayor, then the city clerk, then generally our police department has an antique police car that goes next. Then we usually have ROTC kids. Then the Sertoma president is in it after that in a car. Then we start having beauty queens and floats and all kinds of stuff.”

 

The floats are from businesses, civic clubs, churches, schools, you name it, Bruno said. A panel of judges determines the winners in each category, resulting in a trophy paid for by the North Little Rock Mayor’s Office. The 70 entries actually have many more participants as some entries have multiple animals, riders or marchers.

 

“We have a Jeep club that’s going to be in it this year and they will have 10 cars. Last year, I think the Corvette club was in it,” Bruno said. “We have the State Fair queens and all the different churches will have choirs sing and they’ll have floats. Then at the very end, one of the Boy Scout troops has Santa Claus.”

 

Rules are few and pertain largely to safety. Float riders are reminded to throw candy underhand and out and away from the line of traffic to keep youngsters from darting into the path of an oncoming float. Other than that, there are very few specifics as common sense and an attitude of fun rules.

 

“We have some people that are here every year who we plan on being there. And, there’s always somebody new that will have a crazy float or something,” Bruno said. “We’ve never had any incidences. No one has ever been obscene; people pretty much behave. It’s for the kids and after all, Santa will be there.”

 

Several thousand people will also be on hand the following weekend for Little Rock’s Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade. In addition to the parade, which features more than 100 entries, Big Jingle will dovetail with other attractions and events happening downtown. 

 

“This is Little Rock’s signature holiday event,” said Libby Lloyd, communications manager for Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s something that people of all ages can attend to officially kick off the holiday season. Following the parade, we light the state capitol, which is iconic in town. It’s just a wonderful day and evening of celebration.”

 

The Dec. 7 event will feature themed community floats, beauty queens including Miss Arkansas, car and civic clubs, city leaders and Santa and Mrs. Claus. School marching bands and non-profit community organizations will be competing for cash prizes; top bands receive $1,000 and $500 for first and second places, respectively, and best floats win $1,000, $750 and $500 for the top three winners.

 

But even for those floats that don’t win cash, the thrill of being part of the spectacle is a prize within itself.

 

“This year the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau will have a float in the parade,” Lloyd said, the excitement rising in her voice. “I get to be in the parade.”

 

Following the parade, spectators can witness the lighting of the State Capitol, complete with a fireworks display. The weekend’s activities round out on Sunday with a special holiday photo-op with parade mascot Rudy the Reindeer and Santa Claus in the River Market Pavilions. Other fun family attractions that day include Santa’s workshop activities, Letters to Santa station and a S-Elfie station. 

 

“People love Rudy,” Lloyd said. “Last year, the River Market hosted two live reindeer and it was a tremendous success. They had crafts and you could get your picture taken with the reindeer and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Even with all that, Rudy was still the star of the show.”

 

Asked why such events still draw such tremendous interest, Lloyd said there’s a certain innocent nostalgia that a parade inspires. 

 

“What’s fun for me is I’m a mom and I like to take my son to the parade,” Lloyd said. “For us, it’s a special time to do something together. I love the way the state capitol is lit following the parade – it is just the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.”   

 

2019 North Little Rock Sertoma Christmas Parade

Argenta Arts District, Downtown North Little Rock

Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019

2-4 p.m.

 

Parade Route:

Pershing and Main, down Main Street to Washington Avenue 

 

Notes:

– Spectators will start lining up about 1 p.m. so plan accordingly. The crowd will be solid from Pershing and Main all the way down to Broadway. Choicest spots are between Broadway and Washington at the judge’s reviewing stand.

– Recommended parade gear includes a lawn chair, a blanket and a bag for kids to collect candy.

 

More Information:

– North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, (501) 758-1424, northlittlerock.org

– Visit the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/argenta-arts-district/north-little-rock-sertoma-christmas-parade-2019/591207227950937/

– Email event organizers at NLRChristmasParade@gmail.com

 

2019 Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade

Downtown Little Rock

Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019

Parade - 3 p.m.

 

Parade Route:

Second and Broadway, traveling south on Broadway, turning west onto Capitol Avenue and ending at the State Capitol.

 

Notes:

– Recommended parade gear includes a lawn chair, a blanket and a bag for kids to collect candy.

– Capitol lighting will occur at 6 p.m. or when it gets dark, so don’t cut it too close.

– On Sunday, plan to attend Rudy and Friends at the River Mark Pavilions. Enjoy photo-ops with parade mascot Rudy the Reindeer and Santa Claus and take part in other fun family attractions.

 

More Information:

– Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, (501) 376-4781, info@littlerock.com

– Event website: holidaysinlittlerock.com

– Event Management: Angela Rogers Group, (501) 904-5228

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

 

1. The holidays are on in central Arkansas. So what better way to ring in the season than by attending Little Rock’s or North Little Rock’s annual parades? Themed community floats, candy for the kids, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and marching bands will all be in attendance this year. (Photo courtesy of Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau)

 

2, 3., 4. The North Little Rock Sertoma Christmas Parade is one of the city’s most anticipated events. As keeping up with the tradition, the parade will always feature a NLRPD antique police car and floats from businesses, civic clubs, churches and different schools.  (Photos courtesy of North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau)

 

5., 6. As Little Rock’s signature holiday event, the Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade is something people of all ages look forward to every year. This year the city will see beauty queens including Miss Arkansas, car and civic clubs, city leaders and school marching bands. (Photos courtesy of Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau) 

 

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